Kid A, one of Radiohead’s masterpieces, came out 10 years ago, on October 2, 2000. Celebrate Kid A Day!
A decade later, I still recall much of what surrounded that day. This was, for me, one of the last big event releases. Nowadays, with the internet, and album’s leaking early, the industry and marketing and the idea of releases have all changed pretty drastically. (I’m not complaining.)
Back then though, the internet was mostly used to build up interest. And Radiohead was great at internet marketing (they still are). Their previous album OK Computer was huge and brilliant, and just as the Meeting People Is Easy documentary documents, Radiohead had had enough. So they took a long break. By the time 2000 came around though, there were hints of activity… finally. Radiohead websites would report the details of their warm-up concerts and bits of info like that. Guitarist Ed O’Brien even kept his own diary of the Kid A and Amnesiac recording sessions, which was updated on their own site as they were recording. All of this just added to the build-up of what might be coming.
But while song titles might be floated around, what was the actual music like? Most of us had no idea. Songs didn’t really leak early back then, not on a really giant scale anyway. And besides, there were no singles from the album. They released a bunch of “blips” of music to various websites which were mysterious. Wikipedia says that some live shows had been shared on the web with some of the new songs from that summer, so some fans knew the songs from that. But at that point, the whole mp3/downloading culture was just forming. I, at least, did not quite catch on to downloading until a year or so later (whenever I got broadband). I had no idea what the new music was going to be like.
So when Kid A was finally released on October 2, it was fresh. And exciting. In part because of this, I don’t believe Kid A is really 10 songs, but actually one long piece, fully formed and shaped just perfectly. That is how it came into the world ten years ago.
I remember stopping in at the record store on October 2, in the morning, on the way to work, to buy my copy. I held off listening on the subway, waiting to get inside where I could pay closer attention. I listened to the album for the first time on headphones at my computer as I coded some educational math websites. Those first two songs, with Thom Yorke’s voice sounding so electronic on each, was a shock. I even skipped back and listened to them again before moving on to the later songs. What did I just hear? What are they doing? But it was still evident, from “Everything In Its Right Place”s melody to “Kid A”s ambience, that even with the slight change in sound, this new music was still Radiohead at its core.
Also wrapped in my memory of that morning is that it was starting to get cold. That summer, I had moved from southern California to Massachusetts, and was basically unfamiliar with the cold of New England. I was looking forward to it, but I’d heard a lot of, “Oh man, it’s gonna be awful!” It would get worse than that day, for sure, but I was starting to notice it in the air. Throughout the rest of the year, Kid A would often be on the Discman as I experienced my first cold winter. I felt like I was viewing my new situation–the distance I felt in having moved so far, but also the wonder of having done it and being somewhere new–in a similar way to how the world was viewed on Kid A. From a distance. As always, Radiohead somehow dropped an album on me, at just the right time.
While I’m recollecting about this day, ten years ago, the album would not be that important to me if it were purely nostalgia. Kid A has lasted, and brings me great comfort, and still always impresses me. Sometimes I’m still noticing things in it I haven’t noticed before (or forgot!). I could easily walk through this album and all its moments of beauty, emotional lyrics, the perfect ebb and flow that the album takes you through on one listen, all the feelings and attachments I’ve associated and remember with this work.
But, that’s what Kid A Day is for you to do on your own.